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How we researched user experiences to help staff at the Department of Health and Social Care to engage with their intranet

About the client

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) supports ministers in leading the nation’s health and social care to help people live more independent, healthier lives for longer. DHSC is a ministerial department, supported by 28 agencies and public bodies. The department employs 2,160 staff, who work in locations across the country. We conducted our research with staff in Leeds and London.

Project goals

The DHSC intranet is a knowledge hub for the department and supports day to day admin such as booking time off. Our remit was to learn how staff were using the intranet, and what barriers there were to accessing the wealth of important information available.

Specifically, Studio 24 had to:

  • define the purpose of the intranet within the department

  • reimagine the homepage to reflect the intranet’s purpose, the daily needs of staff and the department’s need to highlight certain news and campaigns

  • assist in finding a solution to the need for a social aspect to the intranet, allowing users to come together as a community with groups and blogging.

Challenges

From initial discussions it was clear that the intranet had too much information competing for attention. There was no clear navigation and the search functionality could yield erratic results. This made simple tasks time consuming.

We needed to look at how the information was being presented and offer a redesign that would:

  • inspire staff and reflect both the work and social aspects of the department

  • overhaul the content hierarchy to help staff find the information they need easily

  • ensure all staff feel represented by the redesign and that their voice has been heard.

Studio 24 provided the consultancy for this discovery phase of the project and the development work would be carried out by the DHSC’s digital agency DWX.

Conducting user research

We conducted user research into intranet use over 3 days at the DHSC offices in London. Using 1-2-1 interviews and workshops we discussed with the participants their experiences of using the intranet. Some interviewees took part by invitation so that questions regarding intranet use could be made pertinent to the job role. Other interviewees responded to a call for volunteers. Another half a day was spent conducting phone interviews with staff at the Leeds office.

Although popular tasks differed between departments, there were common themes emerging. We developed user stories to deepen our understanding and further inform our design choices. In the user stories we looked at a user / job title, a task they want to complete and why. We put these user stories on a Google doc where we could share and collaborate with the client. The client could add and adapt the stories based on their knowledge and understanding of their staff. This gave us the insight we needed to overhaul the navigation and present a workable solution.

Presenting our recommendations

We prepared a report of recommendations, supporting our suggestions with evidence from the user interviews. Once the information had been analysed, our Creative Director (Ian Axton) produced wire frames using InVision for the homepage, events page and news page. Ian added user feedback quotes to the illustrations to validate why a certain decision had been made.

Researching a new community communication tool

We ran a workshop with a specific focus on how the community tools were used. This workshop included various groups from across the department for whom a community tool would be very helpful e.g. the parenting network, the union, the environmental team. These groups currently manage their networks via email which is time consuming and it makes it difficult for new people to get involved. The DHSC wanted a community tool that could be integrated with the intranet and share the intranet login as research suggested too many logins were a barrier to use. We used the discussions from the workshop as a springboard to conduct our own extensive investigation into community tools that could be integrated into a WordPress website. We were able to present a solution for the client to consider.

Providing a roadmap for development

We formed a good working relationship with the DHSC’s digital agency DWX. We collaborated via Trello so they could ask us any questions about our recommendations.

Results

The DHSC were very happy with our research and subsequent recommendations. We were very pleased to be invited to pitch for a subsequent project which would supply the information architecture for the intranet redevelopment. We look forward to building our relationship with DHSC and developing an effective, collaborative intranet for DHSC staff.